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Breaking Down Two Minutes: Time Management Within a GMAT Problem

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This article, written by Abby Pelcyger and Stacey Koprince, was adapted from our upcoming book, The GMAT Roadmap: Expert Advice Through Test Day. The full book will be available mid-November.

You won’t correctly answer every Quant problem on the GMAT in the allotted time. Even 99th per-centile performers typically don’t do this. Through a 700, GMAT-takers are getting about 60% of the problems correct: that’s only three out of five! Even individuals who score a 750 are only getting about four out of five questions correct. That’s why time management is essential on the GMAT. Why spend time on a problem that you won’t get correct anyway, when you could invest that time on a problem where the time will make a difference?

As you are working through a GMAT problem, you also need to evaluate whether you are using your time efficiently. For instance, if you are attempting to solve a problem that you know you wouldn’t get right in ten minutes, let alone two, you are not using your time effectively. Likewise, if you are working on a problem and you know that you can get right, but that it will take five minutes, you are also not using your time effectively. Any time that you spend on a problem over two minutes is time that you are tak¬ing away from a problem that you have not even seen yet.

So how should you use your time? While no two problems will take you exactly the same amount of time to work through each step, using this timeline to structure your time working on GMAT practice problems will help you to make wise (but difficult) decisions on test day.

Note: While having a plan for a problem may mean an algebraic method to solve, it doesn’t have to. Back-up strategies such as plugging in numbers and picking smart numbers are just as valid approaches— and sometimes quicker!

Once you have used this strategy to work through a practice GMAT question, write down (or better yet, input into the OG Archer) your best guess. Then, draw a line under your scrap paper notes and continue to work on the problem until you have exhausted every potential line of your thinking. Providing your brain with the opportunity to think through new material most often takes more than two minutes. The trick is to do the heavy thinking now, during practice, so that on test day there’s very little new: all you will have to do is recognize, remember, adapt, and solve!